Tag Archives: Catholic Church

Location, Location, Location

The Juggler

The other day I saw an interesting show. Downtown, they have this park where there’s a section that is blocked off for street performers. I’m no sure how they decide who gets to perform where, and when, but they do have some sort of system in place. It’s not like some areas where there’s a prime street location, and the performers have to fight for the spot.

Sometimes you can find videos online of street performers actually getting into fistfights over a particular piece of real estate. If you make your living as a street artist, which many of them, it can cost you your livelihood if you let your competitor get in and take your spot.

Back in the days of the gold rush, there were certain rules regarding “claims.” If you made a claim on a certain area, then you were the only one that was allowed to find gold in that area. It wasn’t really enforced all the much, more like a general agreement among the gold diggers themselves. If one particular person would “jump claims” too much, then either the authorities, or the general population would self correct, effectively eliminating the “claim jumper.”

Territorial disputes have always been a key reason for countries going to war, as far back as recorded history. Resources, which are always scarce and in limited supply are worth fighting and dying for. It’s no secret that countries, even today, that have valuable resources such as gold and precious metals are much better off than countries that don’t have any resources at all.

Much has been written about the struggle for control over resources on a smaller scale during the middle ages. For a while, the de facto means for keeping property was to keep it in the family. The term “real” in “real estate” itself is a version of the word royal, meaning of course royalty. Real estate means land that is owned by the king, or the ruling family. In the middle ages, all of the land was owned by the rich people, and the peasants had to pay heavy taxes in order to be able to farm the land to eek out a meager living.

There was quite an interesting battle that slowly took place over several generations with regard to this. Generally speaking, the eldest son would inherit the land, and subsequent resources (which included all the people.) The second and third oldest sons usually didn’t get much of anything, unless they were in the good graces of their oldest brother. The daughters were hopefully married off into a rich family.

In poor family, then, daughters were much more valuable than sons, as they at least had the potential to “marry up” into a rich family. But in rich families, eldest sons were the focus of attention.

But over the course of time, some interesting things took place. As Ridley points out in “The Red Queen,” the second sons had two choices. They could accept their fate, and hope they stayed in favor with their older brothers, or they could join the monastery. After a few generations of this, these unimportant, younger brothers became the leaders of the then very powerful Roman Catholic Church. And what did the Church regulate most? Sex, and marriage, the very thing that kept them from inheriting the valuable land and resources.

Pretty soon there were religious laws which forbid marrying of cousins, which were generally favorable to wealthy families as it kept the land and resources intact in the family line. As things slowly changed over time, and with the Church inventing new ways to keep wealthy families from staying wealthy, the church itself became a formidable force.

The late middle ages, whole countries feared the Pope, the new King of Kings, as he could excommunicate entire countries with one decision. These unimportant younger brothers had slowly transformed the Catholic Church into one of the most powerful entities the world had ever seen. All by subtly changing the way that land and resources were kept and distributed.

There have been many studies of animals that indicate mating behaviors are extremely dependent on the male being able to adequately defend its territory. Study after study shows that in many species, whether they be insects or gorillas, the males that can hold and maintain physical territory get all the girls, while those that can’t are cast out, banned, with little chance of ever reproducing.

Being able to hold and defend a small piece of dirt is no insignificant thing. To this very day, thousands die day in and day out to defend pieces of land.

Which is exactly why the city set up a lottery system to see who got that particular spot in the street performer zone. I guess they had the performers pass some kind of test, or provide some kind of reference to quality, then they divided up the times and the spaces by lottery. I suppose that is a good way to do it. I think they are working one some kind of a feedback system where the performers that generate the most crowds are given preference, while those that are less “entertaining” are given the least popular times and places.

But the juggler that I saw was the most amazing juggler I’d ever seen, either in person or on TV. He had this completely spellbinding routine, where he would start juggling things, and then start talking to whoever was nearest to him. Then he would take whatever objects that person was willing to give up, like a cell phone or a set of car keys, and start jugging them, all the while telling this long winded and mysterious metaphorical story about all these tangents that didn’t seem to have anything to do with anything else, except for what maybe came before this.

But the stories always incorporated elements of whatever he happened to be juggling at the time, whatever these things are.

How The Church Became a Powerful Force In Europe

This morning I came across an old man that I see sometimes when I’m out walking. Usually he doesn’t say anything, he merely grunts, or sometimes nods his head a small fraction of an inch.

This morning, however, he was different. He stopped and said good morning, and his body posture indicated he wanted to speak to me. So I naturally acquiesced, realizing the opportunity to speak a perhaps wise old timer. Maybe he was going to let me in on some of the secrets of life only available after several decades of successful living.

“You walk every morning, huh?” He said.
I nodded.
“How far?” he asked.
I replied that I wasn’t sure, but judging by the time, perhaps three or four kilometers.
“That’s good. You’ll live a long time.” He then described the neighborhood that I live in, telling me about the people that live here.

My neighborhood is surrounded by small, privately maintained rice fields, and apparently they have been in the family for at least two or three generations. Land is expensive, and usually a son will get married and then live with his parents, and eventually inherit the land.

It’s an interesting way to pass on wealth, through family bloodlines. Back in the old old days, it was important to from alliances with several families, and marriages were very strategic, in order to protect land ownership. Nowadays it doesn’t seem to be that way anymore, even here in Japan. Most people when they grow up don’t wish to inherit their families rice field. They’d rather move to Tokyo to get an office job.

I was reading an interesting book about land and wealth and families, and how it had a dramatic effect on the evolution of religion in Europe. Rich and powerful families would own lots of land, and do their best to keep it in the family. Quite often the most powerful landowners were often the same people that were in the government, so if you didn’t own land, you were pretty much at the mercy of those that did.

Marriages were strictly controlled, and the power and wealth of the time was effectively kept in the hands of the few. But when the Church became more and more popular, an interesting struggle began.

On the one hand, you had kings and monarchs that could protect their wealth and power through bloodlines, and marriages selected to keep the wealth in the family. Strategic marriages were extremely common in those times, and often times you had marriages between cousins to maintain the family power.

On the other hand, you had the Church. The Church had no method like bloodlines or arranged marriages to maintain its power. But eventually, the church became the de facto governing power in much of Europe.

This happened through the development of moral laws, primary to control the sexual behaviors of people. By controlling the sexual behavior of people, the church basically controlled those arranged marriages that he kings and nobles used to protect their bloodlines. The church enforced all kinds of moral laws regarding whom you could marry, effectively limiting the power of the monarchs to choose their own bloodlines.

Soon the church was dictating through its enforced moral laws, which families were marrying who.

An interesting way this happened stems from the idea of the “first son.” Generally, the first-born son was the inheritor of the father’s wealth, and the second son was generally left to the good graces of the first son, which generally weren’t very much.

So another interesting thing happened which gave the Church even more power. The groups, which entered into the monastery, or priesthood, and soon became the group that was dictating moral law to the rest of society, were these second sons.

The second sons that were being shut out of the family fortune, were collectively entering the church to create moral laws to diminish the wealth and power of individual families, and increase the wealth the and power of the church.

And that is how the Catholic Church quickly became the most powerful force in Europe. By effectively controlling the sexual behavior of others.